Interview with Cyrano Jones / D-Bug aka The Law / Automation 1999.

How old are you?


When did you join D-Bug?

I was with D-Bug at the start. Disk One (a and b!) I don't know what year it was, but I'm sure you can find out by reading a scroller!

When (and why) did you leave D-Bug?

I didn't actually leave D-Bug, I just sort of drifted away. Round about disk 117 I was doing my second year at university and I bought a PC (A 386-DX-40) with "X-Wing" and "Day of the Tentacle" and just started using the ST less and less. BTW, I finished X-Wing with all the medals as a Top Ace pilot.....

Did you crack anything for D-Bug, or was it just intro code?

I started off cracking, but soon decided that I'd rather just write the intro code for the group. I still enjoyed the 'thrill' of cracking, but the endless hours of watching the Automation packer count up a number from 000 to 100 was just too dull to express in words. I really don't think people understand, even today, how *long* files actually took to pack and the work involved in a successful raw data to file conversion.

What computers/consoles have/do you own?

Ok, from the start (and in order):

Atari 800, Atari 800XL, Atari 130XE, Spectrum, Atari ST, Atari Lynx, PC (386/486/Pentium), Commode Amiga (for about three weeks), Atari Jaguar, Sony PlayStation.

Do you still own your ST, and if so what do you use it for?

Yes, I still have it. It's beaten up a bit, the case is cracked, you could grow spuds in the dirt encased in the lid, and the floppy is pretty shot to hell, oh, and the 4 meg upgrade pops out of the Shifter socket every now and again, but it's still alive and if not kicking, then squirming. It's been used recently to test some disk images to verify if it's the image or PaCifiST that doesn't work!

Where do you think Atari went wrong, and would you buy a disk-drive from them?

Simply put, they design AMAZING hardware (at the time) but have/had absolutely no idea of how to market it. The 800 series was far superior to anything at the time, yet the Speccy and the 64 cleaned up due to really bad publicity. Same again with the Lynx. Best hand held ever made, didn't sell. But if you want to know where I think they really went wrong, it was this: The Jaguar should have been released *on time* (it was ready) and *with Doom* (which was also ready) - at the time you had to pay about £1000 to get Doom and a PC system, and the Jag would have offered it for £150. They really hit rock bottom there. And no, I wouldn't buy a disk drive from then, I like Samsung ones, they're cheap.

What do you think of the various Atari ST emulators?

Getting better and better all the time, excellent. I like the interface and debugger, which I suppose helps to keep idiots out as you need a brain to use it. It's got it's problems, but it's a fine piece of work and Frederik should be very proud of his achievement.

Only tried this last week, but it was very impressive.

Haven't tried it.

Haven't tried it.

Looked good, but I actually couldn't get anything to run properly. I will admit that it's probably my fault though.

What feature(s) would you like to see implemented in future versions of these emulators?

Weeeeeeeeell, cycle-exact screen rendering, but I wouldn't expect that anytime soon. Overscan would be nice, but again...... it was hard enough to do on a real ST, never mind a virtual one. However, more immediately useful would be the ability to boot a double sided disk with raw data on the B-side and a single sided format across the top. Bet Alien wishes he'd filed more now...... :-)

Did you ever get a scroller to yourself?

Far, far, far too many. ;-)

Did you ever slag anyone off you wish you hadn't?

At the time, no. From information at hand anyone who got it got it for a reason. Alien and myself should have talked it through though before letting rip, and neither of us were the guilty party for that particular slinging match. We get on OK now.

Did you ever not slag anyone off you wish you had?

Yes, but there's far too much water under the bridge now for anyone to care. Besides, the ST community is, and always has been, one big happy family, right? ;-)

What was the most innovative thing (at the time) you saw on the ST?

Overscan/sync-scrolling. It really gave the machine a new breath of life.

What's your fave ST game?

Oooh, tough question. Super Sprint? Star Wars? Stunt Car Racing? Monster Business? DevPac?

What do you think is the best (technically speaking) ST game?

It's gotta be, without a doubt in my mind, 'Enchanted Lands'.

Or maybe 'No Second Prize' - Either way it's a one!

What's the worst ST game you have seen?

Manhattan Racers or Manhattan Chasers. I'm looking for a copy of this game, if anyone has one please let someone at D-Bug know. Top Banana is a close second.

What's the best job of a game crack (ST) you have ever seen?

Vapour doing the Wayne Smithson game 'Anarchy' which was done at a full Automation meeting. The disk did the rounds I can tell ya. Neil got if first (I think), struggled valiantly for about 2 hours then threw it at me. I took out a few shells, got completely confused and slung it at Vaps who went away for a few hours, then came storming across the room screaming 'I've lost f***ing D4', drank a cup of tea, and went back into the corner with SID (the worst debugger ever, BTW) - several hours later, there it was, in files. The guy was/is a cracking genius.

What's the worst job of a game crack (ST) you have ever seen?

From a personal point of view, my crack of Speedball II. I was never happy with this one, it just kept on crashing for no apparent reason. I think I got it pretty stable, but if you're gonna play it use the Automation one. Mine has all the files, but something is just not right. Another one was The Replicants crack of Infestation which killed you off after being played for 45 seconds, this took me MANY hours searching for the protection. However, anyone who ever packed a .PRG file only and called it a packed game deserves to be mentioned here......

What's the best protection system you have ever seen?

The one for Total Apathy MegaDemo that never got released. It had four mail shells with about 20 sub-shells, timers running on the IKBD processor, code executing from $8--->$80000, a jump to $ffff8240 (the palette) to prevent carts for dumping, more sync-timing decryption routs than you could count, false routines, dead ends, hidden messages, and many many more features. It was coded by Andy The Arfling, Zippy, Xerud and myself. In a commercial environment, the protection on the Thalion RPG (Dragon Flight?) that I can't remember the name of.

Did you (or anyone else) manage to crack it?

No one ever saw the Apathy protection rout, but we certainly gave it our best shots 'in-house' and decided it was 'pretty secure' ;-) I never saw a crack of that RPG, so maybe not. But I guess someone did it eventually.

What's your fave demo?


What's your fave group?

What's your fave TV show?

Highlander and

What's your fave movie?

Highlander. The 5th Element is a *very* close second.

What's your fave cheese?


What's your fave food?


Can you name 10 ST Hackers?

Yes. And they're all me.

Can you also name 10 PC Hackers?


What does that tell you?

That I don't care to look anymore? That the individuality of the scene has been replaced by 'corporate groups'? That when games are ripped onto 100 disks you are either gonna pay the company that developed it for an original or BT for the phone call to download it? I honestly can't be bothered anymore,I'd rather go and buy a game I like and get the full package with sound and cutscenes. In the old days the whole game was there, so it was different, but now so much stuff gets ripped that you're not really playing the game anymore, more a mear ghost of the full thing.

If you could travel back to 1988, would you do anything differently?

Yeah. I'd get myself a hard disk for the ST. I still don't have one. Oh, and maybe I'd tell Dack that his Sapiens wasn't going to work ;-) Maybe go looking for Milla Jovovich and find her before she becomes famous. And tell myself not to go out one night in December a few years ago.........

Who did you most admire?

Nik Thissel (sp) and TEX.

What music do you like?

Well, it's no secret that I listen to Duran Duran. Dunno why, they've just matured as a group. Their stuff doesn't sound like the hippety-hopp 80's sounds they used to make anymore.

I'm also a big Sarah McLachlan fan, you should really try to listen to some of her stuff. Amazing.

What tools did you use to crack most games?

DevPac ST (GenST and MonST), a proggy called MoveMem that I wrote, AutoHack, and a few utils that were written by myself and various other people.

What Pseudonym's did you have?

Epsilon, The Law, Cyrano Jones, Disaster Zone, The Original Snot-Gobbler, Uncle Scrooge, Milamber (along with Andy and The Pilot), Fat Freddy & His Cat (Along with all of Automation), Sonya (From the World Famous 'Gopping MegaDemo' disk) and possible a few others as well.

What's you fave software house?

At the time, .... now.... iD Software. Quake rocks. BTW: Is it just me or is 'Unreal' crap?

Why was D-Bug formed?

Because Automation was dead.

Do you think your activities helped to kill off the ST?

Nope, the good games sold well (I even bought a load) and the bad ones deserved what they got, eg, "Top Banana" - The machine died because it simply couldn't compete with the new, faster hardware that was appearing. I get the feeling that the Falcon could have pulled it's weight a bit more, but that good old Atari marketing department kicked into gear again and killed that particular bird before it even got off the ground.